Where there’s Smoke
There’s a place in Pebble Beach
known far better by tourists than locals. It’s Huckleberry Hill
and there, perched at cliff’s edge, you can look out through
miles of freshly sprouted Monterey pines to a 180-degree view of
the metallic ocean and the white water where it pummels Cypress
Point, Spanish Bay and Asilomar State Beach.
Today I park my car at the
turnout there and walk along Sunset Lane, Sunridge Road and down
trails etched into the forest floor that is spackled with wild
irises and little purple posies.
My heart soars. It’s been so long
since I’ve been here that I wonder how I could forget this
little Nirvana right in my own backyard.
The forest is a metaphor for
life: wavering slim trees, bristling with pine cones and emerald
needles, have replaced what was once a scorched wasteland.
Yes, approximately 20 years ago a
conflagration rampaged through Pebble Beach. It set the sky an
eerie orange, devoured estates and killed untold wildlife.
It was a natural thing for the
forest to do, they told us, but unfathomable to those who lost
their pets, sanctums, photographs and memorabilia . . .
After my walk, I rest on the
bench amid the pines and wonder if nature remembers these
occurrences. Are our lives, like the emerging young trees,
simply a repetitive process – unrecorded and without plan? Or
are we seeds that open to life’s fires in order to grow toward a
I close my eyes and hear the
whooshing melody of wind through the forest; a woodpecker, “drr-rr-tt”
“drr-rr-tt”; a dove, “woo-ooh” . . .
I want to rush home, pick up my
neighbor Hattie and take her here – to a place I’m sure she’s
I want to reminisce about how we
talked via phone that night as the fire raged and the police
cordoned off our streets, intending to evacuate us.
I want to call her like we always
do and say, “Are you watching this sunset?” Or borrow her lawn
mower. Or have a cup of tea.
How very fine to walk into her
home, sniff its yeasty smell from her freshly cooked bread, and
sit among her German knick-knacks. To stroke the heads of myriad
neighborhood cats she has collected to feed.
But she isn’t there.
This scares up a tear, thank God,
because now I have made contact with my soul.
So I hop back into my car and
drive to the convalescent home where Hattie now resides. She is
smiling as I wheel her outside to sit among the trees. And
there, as we bask in the sun’s warming rays and look up to a
blue bowl of sky punctuated by furry pines, we reminisce about
the fire . . .